Man of Steel, Movie of Wreckage »« Theodore Beale, racist asshat (and not embarrassed by it)

That’s not obnoxious. I could show you obnoxious, if you’d like.

Down there in sunny wingnutty Florida, a judge recently decided that Christian groups could “passively” distribute Bibles in public schools — that is, they could leave them on tables and allow students to pick them up. Mary Elizabeth Williams thinks that’s a bad idea, and I agree — it’s a decision that opens the door to “passive” proselytization.

The Central Florida Freethought Community decided to make a reasonable response, by passively distributing some literature of their own. And now Williams decides that atheists are just as obnoxious as Christians.

But after “1,700 students left school with Bibles” in the wake of one of those “passive” distributions in 11 schools last winter, the atheist groups decided to make a point. They asked for permission to distribute some materials of their own, including books and pamphlets with titles including “An X-Rated Book,” “Jesus Is Dead” and “Why I Am Not a Muslim.” Which if I’m not mistaken is a douche move.

Ms. Williams is mistaken. It is not a douche move. It is a responsible protest. Is the only protest that she won’t regard as a “douche move” one that is completely unobjectionable and does not annoy anyone in any way? Because that isn’t any kind of protest action at all.

And what’s so bad about these particular pamphlets and books? “An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible” is a biblical exegesis. Jesus Is Dead is Robert Price’s analysis of the historicity of Jesus; it’s a serious book that examines the sources and the myths. Why I Am Not a Muslim is Ibn Warraq’s call for human rights and rejection of the dogma of Islam.

In the light of a court decision that allows Christian groups to flood the schools with lies and nonsense, a secular group decides to offset that influence by providing honest scholarship and serious discussions of the issues within religion. What’s douchey or obnoxious about that? Did Williams just recite the titles expecting people to react emotionally with shock and horror because they’re obviously critical of faith? Has she read any of the books in question?

What’s really a douche move is for a columnist to blow the Jesus dog-whistle to get knee-jerk support for labeling atheists as “obnoxious”, without considering for an instant the substance of their arguments. Oh, no, they said “Jesus is dead,” they must be bad, bad people, and you must agree because they are giving kids rational reasons to turn away from faith. Oh dismay. Oh fretful dithering. Oh how dare they.

And I say, oh fuck Jesus and Mohammed and all those other frauds, and be grateful that atheists are being gentle and generous in their efforts to help educate children. Because those pious fanatics who oppose us won’t be generous in return.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m interested in how you’d respond to this point from the article:

    And when you say you’re “committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church” and you’re fighting to distribute anti-religious materials in state-run facilities, you’re not separating church and state either.

  2. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Asher Kay at 1- I don’t know how PZ would answer it but I’d say that perfectly illustrates William’s problem since she mistakes an attempt to correct, as much as possible, a violation of church and state as a violation of church and state. The real question is whether the ignorance her mistake was borne out from was honest or intentional?

  3. says

    Easy. If you look at those books, they’re not anti-religious: they’re SECULAR. They talk about history and contemporary politics and philosophy.

    Like the title says, I could show you obnoxious. They aren’t trying to smuggle me into the school to deliver a righteous castigation of all things religious…they’re supplying informative texts that discuss serious aspects of religious belief without promoting an alternative religion in their place.

  4. cuervodecuero says

    Would I be correct in interpreting that tsking sound in the Salon column inches as yet more tone trolling? Ye olde ‘if only atheists would be polite when confronting religionist abuse of secular schools, they’d get so much further ahead’?

    So, she gets to call religionists douchebags, but only within reach of the internerati who read her column but actually reaching out to the students and parents being affected/confronted by the passive-aggressive preachery of the bibles with a move that points out the hypocrisy of any angry protest at the non-christian materials, that’s too much.

  5. seraphymcrash says

    Asher Kay,

    That’s one hell of a twist to that statement. The reality is the FFRF opposed allowing bible distribution but was ignored. in response they sought participation in the “limited public” forum and have been censored.

    The more honest way to put your statement is “The FRFF are fighting to take part in the public forum that was established by the district and they are being censored”.

    I would also strongly recommend reading the FFRF’s version of what happened. It’s has more actual facts in it, like why many of the books were found to be age inappropriate: they discussed the violent and abusive themes in the bible.

  6. John Horstman says

    Word!

    @1: Well, considering that the courts ruled that passing out religious literature isn’t a violation (hence the Christians still doing it), I’d say it’s a disingenuous argument, resulting from either a lack of self-awareness (in the sense of positional awareness) or intentional deceit. She’s equivocating: she’s treating the court ruling on what constitutes separation of church and state (state pluralism, what both the Christian and freethought groups were practicing) as though it’s equivalent to actual separation of church and state (state secularism, what we would ideally want) and criticizing the freethinkers for acting in accordance with the legally-mandated definition instead of their ideal definition.

    A parallel case: marriage statutes are bad because they’re intrinsically (unfairly) discriminatory – they treat socially-monogamous couples differently under the law than single people, household or romantic arrangements involving more than two people, immediate family members living/raising kids together, etc. That said, if marriage is going to exist at all, it’s preferable to make it available to as many people as possible. Opposing a ban on same-sex couples marrying as a step in the right direction of marriage equality (as with religious equality, marriage equality is actually only possible with marital secularism – no marriage laws at all) is not hypocritical if one’s main purpose is to minimize (and hopefully eventually eliminate) unfair* discrimination.

    *That is, discrimination on the basis of irrelevant factors. Discriminating against people with no medical training by not allowing them to perform surgery, for example, is a very good thing. Discriminating against people on the basis of melanin expression in the dermis is almost always going to be a bad thing (tiny exception for activities in which amount and distribution of skin melanin is directly relevant to the activity – say, portraying a Black historical figure in a movie).

  7. says

    “Jesus Is Dead” — Seems fairly self-evident to me.

    Oh yeah? Try saying it to an evangelical Christian sometime. You might be surprised at the response you’ll get.

  8. says

    Thanks for responding to Mary Elizabeth Williams, PZ. I think your analysis is spot on.

    I read Ms. Williams’s report earlier today and was offended by her “douche move” judgement. Too facile by half, and also a strange twist that more or less attempted to take the FRFF books out of context, and to take their action of passively offering the books out of context.

    I can only assume that, like all too many people, Ms. Williams has unconsciously soaked up some of the “it’s rude to question religion” and the “give Christians a pass” culture, perhaps by osmosis. I don’t think she is usually that dense.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    PZ @4:

    If you look at those books, they’re not anti-religious: they’re SECULAR.

    Jesus is Dead and Why I Am Not A Muslim aren’t anti-religious? That’s as disingenuous as Williams’ tut-tutting. What FFRF did was a reasonable response to an unreasonable ruling. You’re over-defending the defensible.

  10. tyson says

    I know some will disagree, but I object at the choice of atheist literature. I can understand the desire to counter the distribution of bibles with literature highlighting the negatives of religion. The thing is, the bible has an air of being a substantial book, whereas unfamiliar booklets and pamphlets can seem pushy and amateurish. Especially when, at face value they seem critical. I think atheism needs to be “sold” as an alternative, and this could be conveyed in a single volume that focuses more on reason, humanitarian issues and the wonder and beauty of nature and the cosmos and the prestige of scientific discovery. If people have religious conviction or are neutral they are less likely to be interested in arguments against something, but they may be interested in an alternative. I also think it would make atheism as a movement seem more organised. People generally seem to respond positively to organised.

  11. raven says

    I’m interested in how you’d respond to this point from the article:

    And when you say you’re “committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church” and you’re fighting to distribute anti-religious materials in state-run facilities, you’re not separating church and state either.

    Asher Kay,

    I’m not PZ, who has already answered you. But your question is so stupid, even I can answer it.

    1. The xians started it by distributing bibles. Did you not read the opening explanation?

    2. If religious fanatics can distribute their holy books in public schools, then they cannot discriminate. Any other religion could do the same, Islam, Hindu, Pagan, Scientology, Church of Satan and so on.

    By defining passsive distribution of written materials as not a violation of church and state, the xians have allowed atheists and anyone else who wants to, to do the same thing.

    IMO, this is a bad idea. Schools are for teaching kids, not trying to convert them to one religion or another. But it is a bad idea that comes from…xians. They come up with bad ideas often.

    Speaking of bad ideas, do you actually have any ideas good or bad or are you just a driveby troll?

  12. says

    Don’t forget that MEW is a Catholic, and after much public hand-wringing, has decided she’s going to raise her kids Catholic too even though she openly admits that the Catholic church is filled with hypocrisy and evil these days. (Of course, it wasn’t like that when she was indoctrinated a child. No, it’s all since then.)

    It really does color her comments: this new article is a defensive “la la la I can’t hear you I don’t have any crisis of faith at all”.

  13. says

    Easy. If you look at those books, they’re not anti-religious: they’re SECULAR.

    I’m not sure what distinction you’re trying to make here. Is it that the CFFC is not attempting to engage in the practice it opposes because the books it wanted to distribute don’t relate to church/state separation?

    I haven’t read all of the books they wanted to distribute, but if “Letter to a Christian Nation” isn’t anti-religious, I would have a difficult time naming a book that was. The books are centered on religion and religious claims, and they are critical of those claims.

  14. chigau (aaarrgh) says

    Can the students passively move the passively distributed material to the dumpster?

  15. says

    @raven

    But your question is so stupid, even I can answer it

    What question was that?

    The xians started it by distributing bibles.

    So the Christians started it, and therefore the CFCC isn’t trying to engage in a practice it opposes?

    do you actually have any ideas good or bad or are you just a driveby troll?

    I’ve been around for a while.

    My sense is that you’re reacting as if I’ve stated a position. I was interested in PZ’s response to what I considered the substantive claim of Williams’ article, which PZ did not address in his post. The claim that it was a “douche move” is more or less meaningless without the other claim to back it up.

    I haven’t reached an opinion of the CFCC’s actions. Still listening, thinking about it, and asking questions.

  16. raven says

    So the Christians started it, and therefore the CFCC isn’t trying to engage in a practice it opposes?

    Way to miss the point.

    The CFCC is trying to show why it is a bad idea by taking it to its ultimate conclusion.

    Something like a reductio ad absurdum

    Reductio ad absurdum – RationalWiki
    rationalwiki. org/ wiki/ Reductio_ad_absurdum‎

    May 5, 2013 – Reductio ad absurdum is the technique of reducing an argument or hypothesis to absurdity, by pushing the argument’s premises or conclusions …

    If xians can distribute their literature in public schools, by law, so can any other group. This includes Wiccans, Pagans, Moslems, Church of Satan, Scientology, Voodoo, Hindu and so on.

    It’s a bad idea. Schools are for teaching kids, not trying to convert them to one religion or another. A bad idea that came from xians.

    Do you have a better idea than CFCC?

    How would you stop xians from proselytizing in public schools? At least CFCC is actually spending time and money rather than just wasting electrons and photons carping on a blog comment list.

  17. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    Can the students passively move the passively distributed material to the dumpster?

    What I’m imagining:

    Student walks by the desk.
    Sorta kinda offhandedly pushes the book off the table.
    “Accidentally” nudges the book towards the garbage can while walking.

    Once it’s beside the garbage can, student casually moves it into the garbage can because littering is bad.

  18. raven says

    I think what the CFFC did was great and reasonable. I’d be interested in knowing what a “non-douchey” response would have been.

    Me too.

    It’s an open forum so anyone with other ideas can post them. CFFC at least made a tangible effort in the real world as opposed to typing stuff on the internet.

    Using the school’s and judge’s reasoning, someone could have distributed Voodoo religious works, Santeria works, or LeVey’s Satantic bible.

  19. chigau (aaarrgh) says

    What I’m imagining:
    Student picks up passive book.
    Carries it to the food-waste bin.
    Dumps it in.
    Dumps uneaten chips-and-gravy on top of it.

  20. chigau (aaarrgh) says

    Perhaps distribute Lovecraft?

    Philip Pullman?
    Terry Pratchett?
    Provide a large paper recycling bin?

  21. Jerry says

    To Asher Kay of comment 17:
    You are assuming that any text which disputes a religious claim is anti-religious, which makes it a type of religion. That is flawed reasoning. Many creation myths are countered by the facts taught in cosmology, biology, physics, chemistry, etc., yet those subjects are science and not in any way connected to religion. The fact that the titles of several pamphlets (and myriad books) mention a religion or religious figure does not make them religious, by definition. In fact, refuting religious claims could be considered teaching science, comparative literature, or philosphy, depending upon the approach and logic used, and the facts cited.
    .
    Personally, I think this encroachment of religious indoctrination by “passive” distribution of one favored religious text (most likely from just one sect out of hundreds), is proselytizing, implicitly endorsed by a governmental entity (school system), and therefore blatantly unconstitutional. The fact that an unbiased (unbrainwashed) court outside of the Bible Belt has not yet ruled on it is the only reason why they are getting away with it.

  22. says

    @raven

    It’s a bad idea. Schools are for teaching kids, not trying to convert them to one religion or another.

    Or get them to reject religion.

    The point – which I don’t think I’m missing – is that if the CFCC disapproves of this bad idea, is engaging in it themselves a wise way to protest it?

    At least CFCC is actually spending time and money rather than just wasting electrons and photons carping on a blog comment list.

    I thought this thread was for discussing Williams’ article and PZ’s post about it. Reaching a better understanding is definitely not a waste of electrons for me. There are similar issues in my community, and I’d like to think about what makes a good or bad response.

  23. says

    @Jerry

    You are assuming that any text which disputes a religious claim is anti-religious, which makes it a type of religion

    No — I’m definitely not saying that. I understand very clearly that these books are not religious.

    Are you saying that the books aren’t covered by the establishment clause because there’s nothing about un-establishing there?

  24. No One says

    “Mom? I picked up a bible from the free literature table today. Can you tell me what Ezekiel 23:20 means when it says :
    “For she doted upon her paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of donkeys, and whose issue is like the issue of horses””

    Because exposing kids to that kind of crap is OK, but having a decent sex-ed class is not. That’s a “douche move”. Actually more like an “ignorance enema”.

  25. raven says

    The point – which I don’t think I’m missing – is that if the CFCC disapproves of this bad idea, is engaging in it themselves a wise way to protest it?

    I already answered you above about this. YES!!! Reductio ad absurdam!!! You can’t read and I’m not going to waste time teaching you to read.

    At least CFCC is actually spending time and money rather than just wasting electrons and photons carping on a blog comment list.

    I thought this thread was for discussing Williams’ article and PZ’s post about it.

    Which we are doing. The subject of William’s article was the school and CFFC.

    I see you ignored my question about what would you do better than CFFC. If all you can do is criticize without offering anything better, you aren’t very intelligent.

    Reaching a better understanding is definitely not a waste of electrons for me.

    That remains to be seen. We all have finite lifespans including you. You are embarking on what is apparently going to be a very long journey. I do hope you figure out a few things in the next decades.

  26. John Morales says

    Asher:

    The point – which I don’t think I’m missing – is that if the CFCC disapproves of this bad idea, is engaging in it themselves a wise way to protest it?

    You imagine that criticism of religion and religious claims is proselytism?

  27. says

    You imagine that criticism of religion and religious claims is proselytism?

    Not really. As I understand it, the word “proselytize” usually means trying to convince someone to believe in or join a religion. It’s sometimes used in a more general sense of trying to persuade someone to adopt a set of beliefs. In this sense, I’d say that, yes, sometimes books criticizing religion are attempts to persuade people to reject religious beliefs.

  28. swervey says

    Asher Kay accuses CFFC of hypocrisy. It’s called even Steven. But AS avoids the actual subject of Bible proselytism this haughty way.
    Did someone say obnoxious?

  29. John Morales says

    Asher,

    Not really. As I understand it, the word “proselytize” usually means trying to convince someone to believe in or join a religion.

    Right.

    It’s sometimes used in a more general sense of trying to persuade someone to adopt a set of beliefs. In this sense, I’d say that, yes, sometimes books criticizing religion are attempts to persuade people to reject religious beliefs.

    You are speaking of that little which remains outside of your “not really”, but granting this sense arguendo, I note that you are relying on the (implicit) claim that trying to persuade someone to adopt a set of beliefs is the same thing as attempts to persuade people to reject religious beliefs, this being the equivalence you consider hypocritical and counter-productive.

    I don’t buy that claim.

  30. says

    @raven

    I already answered you above about this. YES!!! Reductio ad absurdam!!!

    I heard you. I didn’t want to get into a side argument about whether their response was indeed some sort of enacted form of a reductio argument. To me it’s a stretch, but I’m willing to think about it.

    I see you ignored my question about what would you do better than CFFC.

    I heard you. I don’t know what I would do differently. I don’t even know yet if I think they were wrong.

    If all you can do is criticize without offering anything better, you aren’t very intelligent.

    This kind of thing makes it difficult for me to engage with your actual thoughts. Please feel free not to engage with me any further if you feel my reading comprehension and intelligence are not up to the task.

  31. harbo says

    Recently, at a meeting in Wellington NZ, I was staying at a less than salubrious hotel, and the inevitable gideon’s babble was beside the bed. (dusty and unread as usual)
    I picked it up to jam the door, the only use I have found for such objects.

    And out fell, business cards.
    They all claimed various different ways to relieve sexual tension.

    I replaced them, thinking what a wonderful place to find them…..my only problem is how do I replicate them for allocation to future gideon’s, without being creepy?

  32. says

    @John

    So let’s just say “No”. I’m good with that.

    Would you say that’s what makes the CFFC’s actions different? Would you say that relates to the establishment clause?

  33. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This kind of thing makes it difficult for me to engage with your actual thoughts.

    No, they were asking for YOUR thoughts. Must no have any. Here’s something for you to think about: it is easy to criticize, hard to come with effective programs. You need to stop with the attitude, and show us you have a better program.

  34. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Which church, exactly, are atheists failing to separate from the state by distributing these materials, Asher Kay?

  35. says

    @Nerd

    Here’s something for you to think about: it is easy to criticize, hard to come with effective programs.

    I agree. I am trying to figure out what is a good and bad approach. I am not sure the CFCC had a good approach, but I am not criticizing them.

    You need to stop with the attitude,

    What attitude?

    <blockquote and show us you have a better program.

    No, I don’t have to do that.

  36. chigau (aaarrgh) says

    harbo #37

    And out fell, business cards.
    They all claimed various different ways to relieve sexual tension.

    Delightful story.
    I have a new hobby.

  37. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I am trying to figure out what is a good and bad approach. I am not sure the CFCC had a good approach, but I am not criticizing them.

    Sure sounds like it to me. That was also the point of the original person asking for your plan. Unless you can offer something better, why be critical of what is being done?

  38. says

    @sigurd

    Which church, exactly, are atheists failing to separate from the state by distributing these materials, Asher Kay?

    None. But the establishment clause doesn’t mention separating church and state. Do you feel that distributing atheist books in schools doesn’t relate to the establishment clause?

  39. says

    @Nerd

    Unless you can offer something better, why be critical of what is being done?

    Because thinking critically about their actions might help me think of something better (or conclude that they actually had a good approach). If I come up with an awesome idea, I’ll share it. But if I don’t, it won’t make thinking through their actions a waste of time (for me).

    Williams had a point that I thought was substantive, but with which I wasn’t sure I agreed. I was trying to get PZ’s thoughts on it.

    My community faces an issue that’s somewhat similar to this. How the community responds is pretty important. So when I feel hesitant about an approach, I want to examine it and think it through.

    Where better to do that than FtB?

  40. John Morales says

    Asher,

    Would you say that’s what makes the CFFC’s actions different? Would you say that relates to the establishment clause?

    I’ve already noted your claim depends on their not being different, and it is you who made that claim.

    (This about what you were saying, not about what I might have said or would say)

    So let’s just say “No”. I’m good with that.

    There you go.

    You don’t imagine that criticism of religion and religious claims is proselytism, and therefore the CFFC’s actions aren’t proselytism in your view.

    This implies you must either believe that the distribution of Bibles in schools is also not proselytism, or that the two actions are indeed different.

  41. Nomad says

    Ugh. Seriously. It’s not hypocrisy, it’s calling their bluff.

    In such a situation you have two options. Call them dirty rotten liars because we all know they don’t actually believe it’s a public forum, they think it’s their special right as real true Christians. Or else demonstrate it by showing that they don’t really believe it and then cooking up some popcorn and watching them rush to shut it down as soon as they realize that public actually means public.

    In the process you get the whole mess shut down and achieve your goals. This isn’t even anti religious, there are Christians out there who would also oppose this public forum game. Not to mention members of other religions who might be understandably perturbed at seeing the Christians making a grab for their kids in public schools.

    I also would like to know what the non douchey response to this public forum game would be. Every time the civility card is played, it seems that the only course of action the accuser would consider acceptable is nothing.

  42. says

    @John

    I’ve already noted your claim depends on their not being different

    The claim (Williams’, not mine) would be dependent on whether they’re not both covered by the establishment clause, not whether they’re not different.

    So I do see that they’re different in the sense that they’re not both proselytism. What I can’t figure out is whether they’re different wrt the establishment clause.

  43. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Do you feel that distributing atheist books in schools doesn’t relate to the establishment clause?

    Since atheism is not a religion I don’t see how distributing atheist materials in a school could be considered an attempt to establish a religion. I would go further and argue that because atheism is specifically against the establishment of religion that distribution of atheist materials upholds the intent of the establishment clause.

    Is this the part where you now assert that atheism is ‘just another religion’?

  44. John Morales says

    Asher,

    The claim (Williams’, not mine) would be dependent on whether they’re not both covered by the establishment clause, not whether they’re not different.

    It became your point when you wrote this: “The point – which I don’t think I’m missing – is that if the CFCC disapproves of this bad idea, is engaging in it themselves a wise way to protest it?”.

    (You’ve since clarified you don’t imagine they themselves are engaging in it)

    What I can’t figure out is whether they’re different wrt the establishment clause.

    As I see it, the CFFC’s actions contravene neither the Establishment Clause nor the Free Exercise Clause, but the Bible distribution (despite this ruling) arguably does contravene the Establishment Clause.

  45. says

    And when you say you’re “committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church” and you’re fighting to distribute anti-religious materials in state-run facilities, you’re not separating church and state either.

    that’s actually fairly simple. and I’m kinda embarrassed that no one here has managed to talk about this.

    So: there’s two ways for a public institution to not “establish” one specific religion: it can be aggressively secular, not permitting the display or promotion of any (anti-)religious viewpoints; or it can be aggressively inclusive, presenting all possible (anti-)religious viewpoints.
    The former is of course easier and as a matter of shear logistics much more preferrable. But when a court ruling rejects that option, the only choice left is to a)appeal the court ruling, and b)in the meantime, take the “aggressively inclusive” road instead, and balance out the material with other viewpoints on religion.

    Strictly speaking, what they should do is just dump shitfucktonnes of religious literature from as many religions as humanly possible in addition to secular and anti-religious writings, to drown out the christianity-bias and piss everyone off with the literature overload. Usually though it’s sufficient to try to provide anti-religious literature to prove that what’s going on is in fact establishment of christianity, because usually the christian stuff is allowed, but the anti-religious stuff isn’t. And that’s how you get yourself evidence to present at an appeal.

  46. mykroft says

    Hmmm. Isn’t there a FSM holy book? I seem to remember a story about some soldier who took that with him through boot camp, upset that they didn’t want to put atheist on his dog tags. The rest of his platoon got a kick out of it. That should have been on the table for the students as well.

    @AK47 (actually 46, but she seems to be shooting her mouth off a bit). The christian right is very big on promoting critical thinking in schools, unless the subject is their religion. Children are very susceptible to indoctrination. Kids that didn’t listen to adults, especially when humans were competing on a more even basis with predators, probably experienced some selection pressure against that behavior. In addition, children are still learning about the world, and take a lot of cues from adults in forming their world model (e.g. Santa Claus). Religious groups understand this, which is why there is such a focus on repeated exposures to the faith while they are young. Putting the Bibles in that school was an attempt to further this indoctrination program.

    If the Bibles were truly put there passively to give the kids “information”, then other groups have just as much right to put their information there. The books the atheists left was not really intended to deprogram the kids, it was to make this point. Christian groups do not, and should not get a free pass just because they are Christian. To me, it looks like the fact that the Christian group was not getting a free pass was what torqued off Ms. Williams.

  47. John Morales says

    Jadehawk,

    Strictly speaking, what they should do is just dump shitfucktonnes of religious literature from as many religions as humanly possible in addition to secular and anti-religious writings, to drown out the christianity-bias and piss everyone off with the literature overload.

    :)

  48. says

    Isn’t there a FSM holy book?

    “But then when the last scene of his life had flashed before him,
    he recalled that at the lowest and saddest times of his life
    there was only one set of footprints in the sand.
    Dismayed, he asked, “Flying Spaghetti Monster,
    you said that once I decided to follow you,
    you’d walk with me all the way.
    I don’t understand why, when I needed you most,
    you would leave me.”

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster replied,
    “My precious child.
    During your times of trial and suffering
    when you saw only one set of footprints…
    That was when you remembered
    that I’m the reification of a fucking metaphor.”

  49. says

    Thanks, Jadehawk!

    @sigurd

    Is this the part where you now assert that atheism is ‘just another religion’?

    Ha.

    @mykroft

    To me, it looks like the fact that the Christian group was not getting a free pass was what torqued off Ms. Williams.

    To me, it seemed like it was two things: 1) that they were being hypocritical by doing the very thing they were opposed to; and 2) choosing books with specifically provocative titles.

  50. John Morales says

    Another point to note is that the Bible is extremely anti-religious: it doesn’t take lightly to other religious beliefs at all, and advocates extreme sanctions to unbelievers.

    Lucky its followers don’t practice what it preaches.

    (Utterly anti-religious towards every religion on the planet except for one, that book is)

  51. anathema2 says

    Sigurd Jorsalfar,

    Since atheism is not a religion I don’t see how distributing atheist materials in a school could be considered an attempt to establish a religion. I would go further and argue that because atheism is specifically against the establishment of religion that distribution of atheist materials upholds the intent of the establishment clause.

    Is this the part where you now assert that atheism is ‘just another religion’?

    Atheism ought to be considered a religion for establishment clause purposes, even if it technically does not qualify as a religion. It’s still a position on a religious issue. I don’t want the state to be able to endorse atheism any more than I want the government to endorse theism. If I claim that it’s wrong for the US government to print money that says “In God We Trust” on it, then it would be hypocritical of me to say that it would be totally fine if the government printed “There is No God” on all of money instead.

    The distribution of atheist materials in this case does not count as a violation of the establishment clause because the dissemination of literature from any religious viewpoint is allowed. But it sounds like you are arguing that even if the government specifically endorsed atheism alone, then that still wouldn’t count as a violation of the establishment clause. And that simply isn’t the case.

  52. mikeyb says

    This might seem counterintuitive, but I have no problem handing out Bibles to kids provided they could actually read the book for themselves cover to cover without preconceived notions. They will find (a) much of the book makes no fucking sense (most of the prophets), (b) it is riddled with contradictions, (c) much of it is mind numbingly boring (Leviticus, all those tedious genealogies), and last but not least (d) many of the actions/commands of God and his followers are questionable, downright evil or bizarre. And this is without any outside help like books by Bart Ehrman or Richard Carrier. Actually reading the Bible or the Koran will go along way towards making someone an atheist.

    Of course kids never read the Bible for themselves, they read it through the eyes of their church, parents or some other authority figure – and that’s the problem. As Asimov said, the best argument against the Bible is the Bible itself.

  53. Azuma Hazuki says

    If they’re giving out Bibles it had damn well better be a literal translation, Young’s Literal or better. The KJV is horrendously corrupt, and the NIV is also full of fundie fingerprints.

    This is the bigger threat, really: what they’re selling is a specific kind of hyper-authoritarian, American, and above all modern interpretation of Christian doctrine. Of course, try explaining that to a bunch of kids; at 8 years old I certainly never knew there was more than one extant reading for, well, most every passage in the Gospels, even though I was already getting in trouble in CCD for pointing out contradictions.

    I’d also like to give mikeyb’s point at the end of post 62 a very loud seconding: Asimov was dead-bang-between-the-eyes spot on about that. Had I read the OT instead of the NT as a wee dykeling, the CCD brainwashing would never have taken such deep hold and left such permanent scars.

  54. Eristae says

    Like Jadehawk said, the whole objection to putting Bibles in schools isn’t that people have some kind of inherent objection to kids being able to access religious texts in schools; it’s that this kind of decision is designed to grant one religion special privileges in regards to interacting with schoolchildren. In fact, I’ve encountered many atheist who are in favor of religion being taught in schools, but only if all the religions are treated the same. A move like this isn’t hypocritical; it follows through with the assertion that you need to treat religious materials* equally. If you’re going to allow the bible in, you have to allow everything. Because they’re allowing the bible in, so too are other materials being provided.

    *Although those materials aren’t technically religious materials

  55. tomh says

    Asher Kay wrote:

    My community faces an issue that’s somewhat similar to this.

    What issue is it that your community faces, that’s somewhat similar to this? Preachers in school? Bibles being handed out with drivers’ licenses? What is it that has you concerned?

  56. dongiovanni says

    sheer/shear same thing, right? :-p

    Not at all. Sheer is used to describe a sharp cut – off, whereas shear stresses or strains are ones that act parallel to the surface of the unit rather than perpendicular to it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shear_stress

    Sorry. I may have just gone full engineer.

  57. Azuma Hazuki says

    Engineers are always good :) Someone, somewhere, always needs a dispenser [/nerrrrrrd]

  58. says

    @tomh

    I’d rather not state my location publicly. The issue has to do with prayer, and the community is both hoping for a good court decision and seeking to deal with it by electoral means. Depending on how the court rules, there are going to be various options for how to protest the decisions. Some of these are very roughly analogous to the approach taken by the CFFC.

  59. mesh says

    To me, it seemed like it was two things: 1) that they were being hypocritical by doing the very thing they were opposed to; and 2) choosing books with specifically provocative titles.

    Have you stopped to wonder why books with specifically provocative titles were chosen? If the sole objective were to win the minds of children why deliberately do it in such a way as to stir Christian outrage?

  60. tomh says

    @ #68
    Didn’t ask for your location, just what the issue was, which you don’t seem to be able to clarify any more than you can clarify your objections to the situation in Florida.

  61. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Jadehawk said just what I wanted to say. In a space where religion is already being preached (or “passively preached”… whatever), increasing the diversity of religious viewpoints being preached is actually a step towards secularism.
    If the Salon journalist thinks the freethought org is being hypocritical, she might as well go the whole hog and complain about “reverse establishment”.

  62. amdiffer says

    I was riding the bus to the library with the kids in my son’s class and they found some Jehovah’s Witness “literature” that they like to leave around everywhere. I told the kids it was litter. They asked “litter?” I said yes, if you leave anything behind like that, it’s littering, so I took it and threw it away like I always do.

  63. says

    @tomh

    which you don’t seem to be able to clarify any more than you can clarify your objections to the situation in Florida

    I didn’t state any objections. I was talking about Williams’ objections. Do you find them unclear?

  64. forestdragon says

    I remember something a bit less passive going on at one high school where I was working – somebody just barely on school grounds (probably to facilitate a quick escape) was distributing little orange bible extracts (I think this one was only Proverbs). Many, many of these books ended up on the floor, in the garbage, lying in the mud outside the building. Though I thought it was a shocking waste of paper, I had to snicker to myself at the lack of reverence shown.

  65. Holms says

    I for one am open to granting that it is a douche move, provided the author of that article is willing to grant that it is identical to the christian move.

  66. JohnnieCanuck says

    About this ‘passive distribution’ you all keep referring to.

    In at least one Orange County school, Wekiva High, the Bible distribution table was attended by Christians who interacted with the students who stopped by. This was explicitly against the agreement, but went unchallenged. Furthermore, the rules for passive distribution were enforced by the school administration against the Wekiva Atheist and Secular Alliance (WASA) student group’s table. In addition their materials were censored.

    Hemant Mehta, a chair of the FFRF has been covering this for a while now. You can see Daniel Koster’s report in this Friendly Atheist post.

  67. Holms says

    @1 Asher Kay

    I’m interested in how you’d respond to this point from the article:

    And when you say you’re “committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church” and you’re fighting to distribute anti-religious materials in state-run facilities, you’re not separating church and state either.

    I think Jeremy Shaffer @3 answered this ably. I will simply add that the question you quote amounts to the same silliness as when a racist objects to being called a racist, labelling the calling-out as some kind of participation in the ‘race card’ problem and hence calling it similar or even identical to racism itself.

    More generally, objecting to / trying to correct [Problem X] is not an example of that problem in action.

  68. tomh says

    @ #76

    I for one am open to granting that it is a douche move, provided the author of that article is willing to grant that it is identical to the christian move.

    I don’t see why. If the rules of the game are that there is an open season on distributing literature, why is it wrong to follow the rules and distribute literature? Of course, now it has gotten more complicated since the school district has rejected some of the materials that the Freethought Community attempted to place on the tables. Four books, one essay, and four brochures were declared inappropriate for distribution, prompting the FFRF to file suit on June 13th against the school system, in U.S. District Court in Orlando.

  69. skeptex says

    Okay, one point I’m a little unclear on, which doesn’t seem to be explicitly discussed in these articles (or else it’s there, but I’m too tired right now to find it)–these aren’t student groups who are wanting to distribute this literature, are they? They’re Christian (and atheist) groups with no relationship to the school, other than wanting to distribute literature there?

  70. Holms says

    @56 Chris Clarke

    …The Flying Spaghetti Monster replied,
    “My precious child.
    During your times of trial and suffering
    when you saw only one set of footprints…
    That was when you remembered
    that I’m the reification of a fucking metaphor.”

    “Also, I have no legs.”

    @79 tomh

    I don’t see why. If the rules of the game are that there is an open season on distributing literature, why is it wrong to follow the rules and distribute literature?

    That’s pretty much the point I’m making – if we grant that the secular group is performing a ‘douche move’, then it follows that so to are the crhistians by virtue of the fact that they are doing the same thing. So, it’s not that I particularly agree with that label; rather, if one is to be tarred, then both must be.

  71. vaiyt says

    @Asher Kay

    The POINT is to show that they will have to allow competing texts if they want to “passively distribute” their shit. Williams say the atheists are making a “douche move” – well, I call double douche on the Christians trying to find loopholes to proselytise in schools.

  72. dvizard says

    The argument leveled against the atheist side is that they are in fact proselytizing here, something they (rightly) accuse the Christians of all the time. Of course the Christians are making a douche move and are not in the position to criticize. But the columnist isn’t Christian (or doesn’t side with the Christians), apparently, and so has every right to criticize the atheists undermining their own principles.

    That being said, one problem with our struggle in general is exactly that. The Christians have been acting like dicks forever, it says so in their instruction manual, and their methods are effective. Our choices are limited. The more we stick to our principles, the less we’re heard and the more ground we lose in the fight.

  73. says

    Asher Kay

    So I do see that they’re different in the sense that they’re not both proselytism. What I can’t figure out is whether they’re different wrt the establishment clause.

    I’m neither American nor a lawyer, but my understanding is that the establishment clause forbids the promotion of religion, but allows the objective study of religion, as in comparative religion classes—which is what the books in question appear to do.

  74. vaiyt says

    The argument leveled against the atheist side is that they are in fact proselytizing here, something they (rightly) accuse the Christians of all the time. Of course the Christians are making a douche move and are not in the position to criticize. But the columnist isn’t Christian (or doesn’t side with the Christians), apparently, and so has every right to criticize the atheists undermining their own principles.

    What he’s essentially saying is that Christians can disrespect the spirit of the law for their own convenience, but others have to refrain from doing so even in protest. He’s being stupid.

  75. nich says

    Her Wikipedia entry says she is a practicing Roman Catholic. Here she expresses her opinion of the South Carolinan valedictorian who defied his high school and recited the Lord’s Prayer at graduation:

    And Costner’s act was a little bratty, no doubt. But he took his moment in the spotlight to take a stand for something he believes. He didn’t say that anybody else had to pray along. That’s the difference.

  76. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @PZ Myers #9:

    “Jesus Is Dead” – Seems fairly self-evident to me.

    Oh yeah? Try saying it to an evangelical Christian sometime. You might be surprised at the response you’ll get.

    But, they found his tomb…*
     
     
    * Ossuaries of lousy provenance, common names plus some likely forgery, hyped by a misleading documentary, and even if they were from the right time and place, they wouldn’t match the “Jesus” described in the bible.

  77. says

    I’m trying to think of a non-Religous analogy to what is happening… Maybe politics?

    Crazy right wing judge allows “passive” distribution of Glenn Beck’s latest book about on why America is is a pure free market system at heart into schools.

    Liberal group working for political neutrality in schools passes out three books:

    * Robbery in America: How the blind hand of the free market steals from the poor and middle class.
    * Capitalism is Dead (A book that describes that all free market system were really never truly free”)
    * Why I’m not a Communist Fascist.

    It can be argued that each of the books distributed in protest are just well written academic books on politics, but aren’t pushing an overt political agenda, save for the facts that refute the political view that the Glenn Beck book is selling. They weren’t books pushing dogmatic acceptance of contrary political views, which would have been douchesque if they had been, given that a school is a place to learn, not to be brainwashed into political robots.

  78. zytigon says

    In the realm of Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, COSHH, the warning symbol of an irritant or harmful substance has been X though really more of a + with each of the lines at 45 degrees.
    The warning symbol for a toxic substance is a skull and cross bones.
    So maybe the new Globally Harmonized System of hazard pictograms should be employed by requiring
    that a pictogram of a crucifix at 45 degrees with a skeletal jesus be placed on the cover of bibles etc ?

    There could also be a warning message, ” Toxic ! Caution contains high percentage of fiction ”
    ” Proof not determined “,
    FIRST AID MEASURES:
    ” In the event of ingestion, swallowing: irrigate with detailed evidence of Theory of evolution by natural selection and other bits of reality. Consult Dr Jerry Coyne ”

    By the way the new Health Hazard symbol looks like someone who has just swallowed a star of David.

    It is possible to compare bible with it’s summary, alsoran, on skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran
    Anyone with a reasonable memory who had heard the bible stories could have written the quran, but I guess being illiterate would help.

  79. zytigon says

    This world looks like God isn’t working. This is possibly because God is under the delusion that he is
    a primate unable to do anything to help the situation on Earth. If only he could snap out of the delusion that there is no God and believe in himself then he would realize that he has supernatural powers he could use to
    control the fertility of each human on earth to limit birth rate to average 2 children per woman and he could even switch off adults who are suffering senility or severe pain at an appropriate moment. Hell he might even rise to the challenge of preventing murder, abuse, disease and illness.

    The O.T. often imagines God using foreign armies to teach the Jewish folk a lesson or achieve some mysterious end but taking HIV as a case study. Think of the millions who died in WWII. If God was using WWII for some end then how come he failed to use it to wipe out the first few people which HIV
    occurred in ? Well any real god could have just prevented the mutations from SIV to HIV.

  80. says

    @dvizard, #83:

    Of course the Christians are making a douche move and are not in the position to criticize. But the columnist isn’t Christian (or doesn’t side with the Christians), apparently, and so has every right to criticize the atheists undermining their own principles.

    No, as I pointed out above, the article’s author, Mary Elizabeth Williams (referred to as MEW in Salon’s comments section) is Catholic. She’s had some anti-atheist stuff before, as I recall, and recently she has spent a lot of column space trying to justify (A) remaining Catholic in the face of the fact that she apparently doesn’t actually believe in any Catholic doctrine and (B) having her kids raised Catholic, including putting them in the hands of Catholic clergy, despite the fact that she knows Catholic doctrine is not good for them and there’s a chance that clergy may be made up of pedophiles.

    MEW has also said she doesn’t read comments on her articles, because they are “too extreme”. Which gives you some idea of the sort of person she is.

    I suspect this article was one of Salon’s recent “let’s troll groups which are known to be active on the Internet to get more page hits” strategy.

  81. stevem says

    Late to the party, but here goes:

    Imagine instead, the judge said anyone who leaves bottles of wine unattended on a table in school will not be charged with ‘giving alcohol to minors’. So Group A decides to do so, and after the first day, 100 bottles have been taken by students (who knows where to). This outrages Group B so instead of arguing with the judge, “They shouldn’t be allowed to do that!”; they shrug it off and say “Let’s fight fire with fire.” So they set up a table at school with bottles of WATER; labelled “Water: Alcohol is bad for you”. Someone from GroupA sees that and says, “What a douchey move, the judge said we could leave *wine* out, not *water*. Those AA lobbyists want us all to drink water and nothing else. See how the water bottles are *clearly* “anti-wine”? Why else would they say ‘alcohol is BAD’?
    But then “objective” person Q says, Group B is just as bad as Group A for leaving those bottles there for students to just walk away with. You are BOTH “guilty, guilty, guilty”. “If Group B didn’t like what Group A did, then why would Group B just turn around and do ‘exactly the same thing’?”, asks person Q.
    ——
    [—enough for now… Excuse my synopsis of this thread. Just had to let it out. I hope it is somewhat accurate and useful.]

    Just have to say: reductio ad absurdum is pretty much “fight fire with fire” in this case. To show them what they’re doing is wrong; do it yourself so they can point at you and say “That’s wrong to do”. The point is; passing out the atheistic literature wasn’t to “lure” anyone away from religion (i.e. “recruit” new atheists), but to show the “theists” that leaving Bibles out for “passive” distribution is wrong, in itself. The atheist stuff is just a “counter-example”.